Scottsbluff County Commissioners Monday afternoon pared down a budget gap for the coming year to about $850,000, but expressed some frustration with the process while doing so.
Remaining for now is a 2% cost of living adjustment for those county employees not at the top of their pay scale, which Commissioner Charlie Knapper said he thought should be tied to having all departments offer whatever savings ideas they could. Chair Ken Meyer noted all departments, not just the larger ones, needed to pitch in to help make that a reality. “Everybody needs to understand, we’re all in this together,” said Meyer. “There may be nothing else in anybody else’s budget, (and) I don’t know what their situations are, but everybody’s going to have to chip in with this to get it where it needs to be.”
Approximately $700,000 of the shortfall was made up with a decision to reset the county’s reserve fund to the same starting level as last year, with the additional money coming from just over $110,000 in property tax revenue due to higher valuations while the levy would remain the same. The county will also recognize the full amount of federal disaster aid related to last year’s spring blizzards at $300,000 after the Roads Department had suggested a conservative estimate of $150,000.
During the discussion, Meyer said while the county is in a better situation than last year when the gap was about $6 million, he envied other local governments that have said they have the funds for a variety of projects. “The 16 years I’ve been doing this, we’ve never had that luxury. We’ve ask our department heads and elected officials to come to us with a zero budget, and then go cut some more, and that’s tough,” said Meyer. “We use baling wire or duct tape and put stuff together, we’re constantly buying used or fixing broken, and you can only do that for so long.”
Commissioners also expressed a desire to find the additional funding to allow the repair of five miles of Stegall Road next year, as opposed to the three miles currently in the proposed budget at a cost of $900,000. The additional two miles would cost $500,000, but the board said they needed to balance the budget first before trying to find the additional funding.
A final budget workshop will be held September 8th after the regular commissioners meeting.